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Turnbull stoops to personal abuse as government plays with coal in a disgraceful week.

“He has no respect for the taxpayer any more than he has respect for the members of the Australian Workers Union, he betrayed again and again. He sold them out. He sold them out.”

A volley of cheap shots rings out across the chamber this week as a beleaguered Malcolm Turnbull begins the new parliamentary year in a flat spin. He’s under attack on all sides, travel rorts, Trump’s dumping on him, Bernardi’s defection, Abbott’s sniping, a seven-month losing streak in the polls and what to do about George Brandis and his diary.

What do you do with an Attorney General, an officer in charge of freedom of information who refuses a court order to make his appointments public as Mark Dreyfus, a real QC, has requested? The London posting can’t come soon enough.

Peta Credlin, Abbott’s all-powerful, all-seeing former chief of staff helpfully puts the skids under the PM she dubbed “Mr Harbourside Mansion” when she tells Sky viewers the Coalition is broken by “an unbridgeable ideological divide”.

Add into the mix electricity blackouts, a failure to curb power sector emissions and an energy market crisis which has been simmering unattended for years. Luckily energy is all Labor’s fault. It’s their ideological belief in the future of the planet instead of doing whatever it takes to protect the wealth of the coal industry and its many rent-seekers.

The power crisis is caused by Labor because Labor is led by Bill Shorten, a Labor leader who has dinner with rich people!

Desperately, the PM who sold out to his right-wing aims to divert his critics and snatch back credibility by assassinating Hypocrite Bill’s character. Yet Turnbull aims so low he destroys any vestige of credibility; shoots himself in the foot.

The other foot is in his mouth. With nothing left to lose, a gung-ho meets gonzo PM Trumps up his invective; indulges his inner bully in an assault on the man, not his policies, complete with gratuitous, archly homophobic insults.

“This sycophant, blowing hard in the House of Representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne, what a hypocrite,” Turnbull sneers. The “simpering” “sycophant” “sucking up to Dick [Pratt]” “tucked his knees under… tables” jeers the PM. The dig is unlikely to boost his stocks in his inner-Sydney electorate of Wentworth, however many sniggers it gets from his party. Nor will his prejudice play well with his broader constituency.

But why be resolute or decisive when you can be abusive and impulsive? It works for Trump.

Desperate, the orator with an ear of tin leaps, misses his footing and plunges to dangerous depths. He unleashes a raging, ranting, ten-minute volley of personal abuse and defamatory accusation on the Labor leader – lowering himself to ape Tony Abbott, the leader he deposed because he was incapable of anything but the junkyard. Doubtless, he plans to hide, in the fray, how deep in crises he has mired his government. Instead, Turnbull highlights his own bad judgment.

Bellowing, braying, belittling, the PM calls Shorten names in a spray of spittle. He contorts his face fit to out-butch a bull seal bugling. Shorten is “a climber”, “a social-climbing sycophant”, a “parasite and a hypocrite”, terms of abuse the PM finds on a prompt helpfully handed up to him by his batman, Christopher lickspittle Pyne, obsequious to a fault.

Sadly, all Turnbull achieves is a grotesque Abbott travesty, an homage to another self-made loser who often parodied himself in his puerile taunting, name-calling, monstrous lies, absurd assertions and bullshit braggodoccio until it cost him his job.

Turnbull is wasting his time trying to impress his party’s puritan choir; the Nationals and the Liberal right. They hate him with a passion. He may as well be Labor. No concession will ever be enough to buy their approval. Nor win their trust. For most other observers, the PM’s ill-advised and hammy performance is a shocking demonstration of just how far he will stoop to conquer. Pollster Hugh McKay believes Turnbull has sealed his fate. Disintegration and ruin can only follow.

Turnbull’s big problem is the plank in his own eye. “No consistency, no integrity. This sycophant, this simpering sycophant,” sneers a PM who hosts Rupert, a PM whose merchant banking venture was funded by sucking up to Kerry Packer whom Turnbull had saved a fortune on tax, a PM whose sell-out to his party’s right wing cost him all credibility.

Almost as big for the toff is the vexed politics of class. As Bernard Keane and Van Badham note, Turnbull’s attack is a slap-down for Shorten getting above himself. Essentially, Turnbull’s case is that he’s Prime Minister because, unlike the Opposition leader, he’s a better class of person.

Yet it’s a no-win situation. Keane also notes that after decades of berating union leaders for being anti-business and being unwilling to work cooperatively with bosses, suddenly Shorten is fair game for being too close to corporate leaders. Yet none of this matters to the parliamentary party whose blood-lust is up.

Excited by his show of aggression, his colleagues cheer on Turnbull’s Shorten-bashing with school-boys jeers, grins and much thumping of desks. It is an unedifying display of arousal which can only cost the party popular support.

Equally disturbing are those many Press Gallery hacks who applaud Turnbull’s lapse, gushing approval over his “flash of steel”, his “withering putdown”. One scribe sees the theatrics as an “aggressive new course.” Another sees it, somehow, as Turnbull’s version of Gillard’s misogyny speech. Is politics merely blood sports entertainment for a jaded Canberra Press Gallery? Certainly, their praise encourages the PM to further excesses.

By Friday, Turnbull is on 3AW denouncing Shorten as a hypocrite who pretends to be a “horny-handed son of toil”.

Horny or corny, it’s all part of a bizarre, ill-judged attempt by a desperate Prime Minister beset by more problems than a junkyard dog has fleas. His government is dead in the water say, pollsters. Newspoll has Labor 46-54% on the two-party vote and the Coalition’s primary vote falling four points to 35%, its seventh-straight loss, and the worst result so far under Turnbull’s leadership. Essential polls 53-47 in Labor’s favour. It would take a miracle to come back from here. Instead, the Coalition declares it is truly, madly, deeply in love with coal all along despite making sheep’s eyes at renewables.

True, not all are on the same page with their passion. There’s a lot of codswallop about being technology neutral, the official Peabody Energy talking point subterfuge and some daggy hamming from Energy Pretender Josh Freydenberg who even promises a new cabinet subcommittee to “oversee the progress”.

Partly Turnbull’s tanty is to cover Coalition hypocrisy in two-timing its 2030 carbon emissions targets with its affair with coal. Federal Treasurer, Mad dog Morrison, a natural buffoon, follows his PM’s lead in the race to the bottom Thursday by bringing a lump of coal into the chamber. It suits him to clown around while people die of black lung and other respiratory illnesses. It worries him not a jot that an army of scientists could tell him that burning coal to generate electricity will destroy the planet. Instead, he and his party proclaim the sick fantasy that coal is a cheap and clean source of energy.

Ultra super-critical coal-fired plants would cost double renewables reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Melbourne Energy Institute agrees. And who could cost their emissions? New analysis from the government’s own research institutions reveal emissions from USC would exceed the current Australian average of 820g/kWh.

Of course, we don’t have to burn coal ourselves to contribute to global warming. Currently, we export enough coal each day for others to burn and create emissions equivalent to a 500-megawatt coal-fired power station, or 570,000 cars, in a year. Yet we don’t factor in our CO2 exports into our climate policy. It’s been our dirty little secret for thirty years.

Not a single company has any plans to build new coal power plants. No bank will lend any money. The Turnbull government may wave its shotgun as much as it likes but it may never get coal and banks up the aisle again.

Of course, it has a patent remedy which climate change sceptic and front bench coal-tosser Barnaby Joyce has already forecast. The Clean Energy Foundation, established to fund innovative approaches to power generation, will be raided to pay for energy which is neither clean nor a good investment in the future. Who could possibly find fault with that?

At least, finally, some of the Coalition has stopped pretending it is only a little bit pregnant to Peabody Energy. Indeed, the Turnbull government’s recent embrace of coal-fired power shows it has “abandoned all pretense of taking global warming seriously”, Climate Change Authority member Clive Hamilton explains as he resigns from the agency. Professor Hamilton, who teaches ethics at Charles Sturt University, fires a parting shot. He says it is perverse to be advocating coal when 2016 was the hottest year in history.

Bernie Fraser resigned before Hamilton in disgust at the feeble emissions-reduction targets the government was prepared to set. Fraser, a man of principle, pointed out that the government’s post-2020 carbon reduction efforts – a pledge to cut 2005-level carbon emissions by 26-28 percent by 2030 – as put Australia “at or near the bottom” of comparable countries.

The Climate Change Authority itself soon got five new you beaut members in October 2015, one of the first reforms of young Turk Turnbull who is always quick off the blocks when it comes to doing the bidding of his minders, be it his National Party minders or- as in this case -a toady to the coal lobby. The five new members had been appointed by “coal is good for humanity” Tony Abbott and remained to be approved by Malcolm Turnbull.

Described at the time as being as “more sceptical of climate change” the five coalition appointments stacked the committee in favour of government policy and removed the vexed Left-Greens ideological commitment to the continuation of humanity and the troublesome notion of taking responsibility to reduce emissions and redress some of the damage already caused to the environment through global warming, noxious emissions, and other pollution.

It is timely to review the government team players. Assisted by former National Farmers’ Federation’s head Wendy Craik the committee gained Kate Carnell, former CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and former ACT Liberal chief minister; Danny Price, economist and managing director of Frontier Economics, who advised the government on its Direct Action policies; John Sharp, a former Nationals politician and federal transport in John Howard’s government before stepping down after questions raised over his use of ministerial travel expenses; Stuart Allinson, the chief executive of Bid Energy.

No-one can pretend these worthy figures, however deserving they may be as representatives of their constituents, have been chosen for their halcyon impartiality. To use Turnbull’s term du jour Australia has been sold out.

Those who were shocked by gonzo Scott Morrison’s pet rock in parliament Thursday – and it’s impossible not to be shocked by the graphic abdication of responsibility to future generations not to mention a contempt for science and a cavalier disregard for all of the economic and environmental benefits of investment in renewables should thank him for so dramatically revealing the government’s hand, a hand which has been prepared ever since Turnbull took office despite all sentiment and nostalgia for the Old Leather Jacket. Get real. This government has always been pro-coal.

But it’s not all plain sailing or committee stacking. Coal is a big blow to the Prime Minister’s new self-appointed role as Parliament’s Grand Inquisitor determined to root out hypocrisy and energy heresy in the opposition. Why, only seven years ago he, himself, was urging Australia to move to “a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero-emission sources” to avoid the risks, laid out in the science, of catastrophic climate change.

Along with Groucho, Turnbull has principles and if you don’t like those, well … he has others.

“You don’t quit a party you already run, protests Sam Dastyaryi when Cory Bernardi, the man who single-handedly, caused Malcolm Turnbull to drop all mention of any form of ETS in 24 hours flat, leaves the Liberals this week over principle, he says. Principle. Yet he is unable to say what the principles are beyond a bit of mangled metaphor about broad tents and churches and pegs. Fearlessly exercising his new role as moral guardian, Turnbull tells him the honourable thing to do would be to resign. The PM gets one thing right. Hasn’t Cory already caused enough trouble?

Cory Bernardi helped Tony Abbott change from an ETS wuss to an axe the tax crusader in 2009. If there were one man we could thank for Tony Abbott becoming the worst Prime Minister Australia has seen, Cory would be right up there. And weather vane Abbott is quick to take any opportunity now to put the boot into Turnbull.

“… While Cory and I have sometimes disagreed I’m disappointed that more effort has not been made to keep our party united. The Liberal Party needs more people, like Cory, who believe that freer citizens will make a fairer society and a stronger country and who are prepared to speak out and make a difference …”

Now a man of principles he can’t articulate, Bernardi will continue his vanity politics while his quest for relevance becomes even harder, however many anti-halal meetings he attends. The harsh truth is that Cory Bernardi represents Cory Bernardi and while he may indeed enjoy the support of Gina Rinehart, it will take more than the backing of the coal lobby to make him a real political force now he’s out on his own and competing with quite a range of other right wing nut jobs for the reactionary and the protest against the two major parties’ vote.

The South Australian senator is, however, a powerful emblem of the disunity and lack of discipline in Turnbull’s parliamentary party and his weak leadership. It is also a reminder of the parlous state of the Liberal Party when it comes to principles. As poor Cory comes to leave and make his stand on principle, he can’t clearly articulate a single principle. Looking at the government’s disastrous week, it’s hypocritical bashing of Bill Shorten and its theatrical flourishing of a lump of coal in parliament, most Australians would also have trouble identifying a single principle – apart from its steadfast loyalty to the mining lobby – in the Turnbull government’s shameful behaviour this week.


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  1. Lawrence s Roberts

    I would be vexed if I was surrounded by a bunch of cretins as Malcolm is. At least he vented his spleen on Bill and did not take it out on his wife. The new sink hole in his suburb would give anyone nightmares who has read the omens of ancient Rome.

  2. kerri

    Good article!
    I found the red faced, red necked response to Turnbull’s desperate slagging, from the front bench exemplified why the general public have zero interest in politics and how deeply the political class is entrenched in it’s own sycophantasy.they “performed” because they believe that is what the public will be influenced by.
    What a sad sorry bunch of turds?
    At least Shorten and Plibersek were dignified in their response and didn’t rise to the bait.

  3. David Tyler

    Or get into the gutter with Turnbull who has done himself a much greater injury than he realises.

  4. brickbob

    Malcom feels emboldened by Trump and especially his rejection of global warming and his love of coal and other fossil fuels, but this is not the US and Trumble is no Trump,and if he keeps carrying on like he has been which he will of course, he will crash and burn and fall back to Erath in a screaming heap……………..

  5. My say

    Turnbull true colours really should through ,only the rich are born to rule ,and the rest should be seen and not heard,That is why he hates the less privileged,

  6. Michael

    LNP = born to rule
    LNP ideology = opposite of Labor
    LNP policy = opposite of Labor in 3 words
    LNP leaders = market forces decide
    LNP government = ever decreasing circles until the conga line disappears up its own ….
    LNP parliament = verbal diarrhea.
    LNP donors = democracy for sale
    LNP supporters = I am the rule
    LNP voters = sucked in spectators
    Australian voters = who? remind us in 3 years.

    Democracy is not a spectator sport!

  7. Kate Ahearne

    Now it seems the Libs are preferencing Pauline ahead of the Nats in WA. What a shemozzle. They could have heaved a great big sigh of relief with the departure of Bernardi, but they panicked instead.

  8. Kate Ahearne

    My say, Yes, that’s exactly what Turnbull was saying – I was born to rule, and you were not.

  9. Matters Not

    A very, very good article. Ties so many threads together. Excellent research. Felt the need to read it a few times so as not to miss the detail. In awe.

  10. paulwalter

    Turnbull..has turned my stomach.

  11. Peter F

    @Lawrence Roberts “The new sink hole in his suburb would give anyone nightmares who has read the omens of ancient Rome.” ….. Beware the ides of February?

  12. Peter F

    The hymn most favoured by the Coalition is ‘All Creatures Great and small’ , the third verse of which reads:

    “The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.”

    I hear that it is sung at every cabinet meeting.

  13. David Tyler

    Brilliant piece of information, thank you, Peter.

  14. Kaye Lee

    “How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?

    Seldom, and even more rarely if a camera is rolling.

    Most Australians believe we need an honest, informed policy debate. Yet I don’t see many people who believe we have that. Instead, we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin.”

    Malcolm Turnbull, Sept 5 2012

    Malcolm Turnbull’s Speech On Republican Virtues: Truth, Leadership & Responsibility

    PS When I tried to post the above quote on Malcolm Turnbull’s facebook page I was subjected to a “security check” to prove I was a human being.

  15. freddo

    Great piece.
    Shouldn’t Turnbull have accused Shorten of pretending to be a “horn” (not horny) handed son of toil? Was he subconsciously accusing Shorten of Onanism? Was he revealing his own predilections? Was he off his f… rocker? My money is on the third.
    Turnbull will go down as the great wrecker of Australian politics. Having wrecked the NBN he’s moved on to our energy supplies. Don’t under-estimate his ability to root those as well. He’s a cyclone of political destruction.
    And the liberal party? We now have the worst PM since federation (putting Billy McMahon and Abbott in the shade) yet the wasteland that is the Liberal Party cannot produce one single challenger – not one. Hopeless beyond belief.

  16. Terry2

    Fairfax are reporting that The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and others on the coalition side continued with a campaign to blame renewable targets in SA for the power failures in September last (just as they did in the last few days) despite having received clear advice that renewables were not to blame :

    “There has been unprecedented damage to the network (ie bigger than any other event in Australia), with 20+ steel transmission towers down in the north of the State due to wind damage (between Adelaide and Port Augusta). The electricity network was unable to cope with such a sudden and large loss of generation at once. AEMOs advice is that the generation mix (ie renewable or fossil fuel) was not to blame for yesterday’s events – it was the loss of 1000 MW of power in such a short space of time as transmission lines fell over.”.

    Do you expect the PM to apologize to the people of South Australia today for playing politics at a time of community disruption : do you expect Scott Morrison to apologize for playing politics by throwing around lumps of coal in the parliament to support the fossil fuel industry ?

  17. SGB

    Damn good article

    Thank you David


  18. Kaye Lee

    Groups as diverse as the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Energy Council, the Climate Institute and the St Vincent de Paul Society have united to pen a joint letter calling on the Coalition and Labor to lift their game.

    “There is simply no room for partisan politics when the reliability, affordability and sustainability of Australia’s energy system is at stake,” the letter says.

    “The status quo of policy uncertainty, lack of co-ordination and unreformed markets is increasing costs, undermining investment and worsening reliability risks.

    “This impacts all Australians, including vulnerable low-income households, workers, regional communities and trade-exposed industries.

    “The finger pointing will not solve our energy challenges.”

    A decade of such divisions had made energy investment “impossibly risky” in Australia, pushing prices higher while hindering change and resulting in “enduring dysfunction”.

    Their comments came as the Clean Energy Council released figures showing 22 large renewable energy projects are either being built or will start this year. They are worth $5 billion and are expected to create more than 3000 jobs.

    The open letter says the major parties should work together to follow the blueprint set out by Alan Finkel’s Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, which delivered its preliminary report in December.

  19. helvityni

    Beware of the sinkhole, Mal and your mates, it’s getting bigger….

  20. Grant

    Great read David. Our leaders, especially the PM, are paid to debate the best policies for Aust and decide accordingly. Their job description doesn’t include verbally abusing or bullying other MPs. That the MSM promotes this behaviour is telling us they are part of the problem.

    There are some workplaces in Aust where angry outbursts (even contrived ones) and name-calling are seen as a form of bullying and a recommendation to visit a psychologist is not far away.

    My recommendation is that all MPs be tested psychologically immediately they throw a temper tantrum or drift off into juvenile name-calling.

    Put it to a referendum.

  21. helvityni

    “Bernardi will continue his vanity politics….”

    Sadly Bernardi is not the only one who suffers from this malaise David so elegantly calls ‘vanity politics’. I would add Ms Julie, Mal of course, not to forget Tones, Pyne, the fast-train Morrison, to the sufferers of this ‘look at me ‘politics’…even a lay doctor can easily diagnose this fast spreading sickness…

  22. Roswell

    God damn you’re a great writer, David. You’ve joined a wonderful team here.

  23. Arthur Tarry

    Bravo David Tyler. An excellent analysis of the LNP government’s travails, and the nonsense spewing out of Turnbull’s mouth. Him talking about sycophancy and parasitism is a bit rich and, indeed, hypocritical. It’s time for Turnbull to reflect on what he wants to achieve while in govt. Is it just to have his painting on the wall, for posterity and his dscendents to gaze at ?

  24. Klaus Petrat

    Sorry Kaye,

    Yes, we need bipartisan support for the energy security. However, you will find, that the LNP will not move on this. This morning, I heard Frydenberg on radio stating, that they were bipartisan with their 23.5 percent renewable target.

    What he didn’t say is, that Labor only gave into reducing the initially higher target for the sake of investment.

    I predict, that the LNP and the Media will attack Shorten and the Labor party for not providing bipartisan support. And as usual, it will all be Labors fault.

    We need to go to the streets in support of climate policy that doesn’t rape the earth.

    What a joke, the lump of coal. What a disgusting, low figure that so called Treasurer is.

  25. Michael

    LNP – just stop lying – check your facts – stop deceiving yourselves and the Australian public – admit your weakness – behave as a fellow human and all that entails – and stand aside if you cannot stand up for all Australians.


    part of speech: noun
    definition: the telling of lies.
    synonyms: falsehood, untruthfulness
    antonyms: honesty
    similar words: crookedness, deceitfulness, deception, dishonesty, double-dealing, fibbing, two-facedness

    part of speech: adjective
    definition: deliberately untruthful; dishonest; false.
    synonyms: mendacious, untruthful
    antonyms: honest
    similar words: crooked, devious, dishonest, duplicitous, false, two-faced
    related words: insincere

    part of speech: verb
    definition: present participle of lie.

    Anything you do not understand, happy to help.

  26. silkworm

    A few days ago, Ross Cameron told Sky News, “Now, I know, the NSW division of the Liberal Party is basically a gay club. I don’t mind that most of our parliamentary class is gay.” Perhaps Turnbull’s references to blowing and sucking is a projection of the true nature of the Liberals.

  27. jimhaz

    Please explain the QLD ALP approval of the Adani mine.

    And they wonder why people give up on altruism and politics, and vote LNP as a result.

    The first time I saw Palaszczuk I knew she’d be shallow and morally weak.

    This is the big problem with Trump disbanding the US EPA. Leave environment protection to states and the competition between states will ensure the worst outcome via an ever decreasing lower common denominator.

  28. Michael

    jimhaz – State Labor have been wedged by LNP (against jobson groethe) just like Federal Labor, with the best of intentions, fell for the bluff and chased Abbott to the bottom – dirty game which ostensibly seems to resonate with those 1 in 2 voters who prefer to view democracy as a spectator sport and feel good about themselves.

  29. Harquebus

    What was quote, something like, “It’s the economy stupid.”?

    “There is no point in saving the planet if we ruin the economy doing it.” — former NSW Premier Morris Iemma

    Only when the economy ceases to be the priority will we see change. I don’t expect that will happen anytime soon. What I am seeing though is the construction of a 60ft middle finger aimed directly at us.

    “Other luxury shelters are marketed to businesspeople, from bankers to Bill Gates, who is rumored to have bunkers beneath his houses in Washington State and California.”
    “As of January, only one part of the project was under way: a 60-foot statue that will feature Poseidon, amid what is supposed to be a 55,000-square-foot fountain 7. By June, Vintuary plans to unveil the development’s entrance and the shells of six bunkers.”


  30. whatismore

    Good article. Independent media lead the intelligent debate on Turnbull’s rant. The Insiders , by contrast claimed Turnbull demonstrated righteous rage.

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